The first sign that my Grandmother was going a senile was when I was very young. At the time she was washing up in the kitchen and passing wind to her heart’s content. Of course it could have been because she was deaf and couldn’t hear herself that she appeared to remain unaware of the excess gas problem It was when my sister and I, who were drying the dishes, started to giggle uncontrollably that we realised that she had no insight as to why we were laughing.
“What are you two giggling about” she asked then proceeded to let rip another bubble of gas.
Using the excuse of putting away saucepans in the bottom cupboard, we collapsed on the floor and stuck our grinning faces into the storage space. I remember feeling shame at the disrespect I was showing yet finding the whole thing even more funny because I wasn’t supposed to laugh.
“I don’t know, young people” Grandma sighed. Unable to contain ourselves we raced out of the kitchen into the living room where we could let ourselves go. My mother, when she finally got some sense out of us, was not amused and sent us back to apologise and finish off helping with the clean up. We dutifully trooped back into the kitchen and found Grandma using a dustpan and brush on the floor to clean up the dirt. Nothing unusual about that, but then she used it to sweep the dining room table with. For those of you who find nothing odd about this – get someone to teach you the meaning of hygiene.
“Grandma, aren’t you supposed to use a clean cloth for the table?” I piped up. This was a mistake because now she was offended.
“I know what I’m doing” she huffed and proceeded to brush the table down again.
None of us realised it at the time but it was the first sign that everything was not right and that she had dementia.
Many years later I was visiting home and had a rummage around the freezer for something to cook.
“Why is there a frozen tie in the freezer?” I asked.
“Ah” my mother said as a look of understanding crossed her face.
I followed her out of the kitchen up the stairs into the bedroom. She opened the wardrobe door, stuck her hand into it and pulled out a ham.
“I wondered where that had got to” she said.
It was the first sign and this time there was nothing remotely funny about it.